Book Review: Autism Everyday

Alyson Beytien is an Autism Consultant and the mother of 3 boys who are all on the autism spectrum. In other words, she is not only an ‘expert’, but a superwoman!  An autism specialist, Ms. Beytien’s collection of essays (originally published in Autism Spectrum Quarterly magazine) give parents and teachers practical strategies for living with, and teaching, children with autism.

As with all diagnoses, those diagnosed with autism range from low to high functioning levels, and absolutely every variation in between. An informative and insightful read, Ms. Beytien broaches the subject with humour and anecdotes from her family’s daily routines and challenges.  From her son’s obsession with trains to the decision to send one of their sons away to school, she shares the emotional roller coaster that she and her husband ride daily.

A fairly quick read (thank you!), Beytien avoids unending medical jargon and includes short lists of practical strategies at the end of each chapter.   Broaching the subject from the perspective of the parent, Beytien  shares her families daily life challenges with the reader, giving us not only her professional insight but (more importantly) her insight as  parent of 3 boys living on the spectrum.

Whether you have a child diagnosed with Autism, or you work with children who live with autism, this book is essential for your personal reference library.   For this teacher, Beytien has passed on some golden strategies that I am excited to try in my classes and has given me a deeper insight into the daily challenges of families experiencing Autism alongside their children.

Author:   Jacqui Davidson

Betwixt and Between

Alessandra Ferri and Sting: Bach Prelude

[A special thank you to my students for inspiring this post. Pay attention to the ‘bits in between’ and follow your dreams. : ) ]

Learning  is two-fold, there is the information that is given to you and the connections we then make between life and the lesson.   In the summer of 2010 my students made that connection.  It was a case of the students teaching the teacher,  one of those amazing teaching moments when a deeper conversation between teacher and student [and they were teenagers!] occurs.  Love those moments!

I asked this group of pre-teen/teen students about what makes music and movement mean something to us as dancers and audience members.  What moves us/you?  They said that it is the ‘in-between’ bits in the music (click on this text for Yo Yo Ma’s interpretation) that tell us the most.   Connecting this to dance, we concluded that it is what happens between the steps which speak to us and move us.  This is where the story is relayed from dancer to audience (click on the text for Alessandra Ferri and Sting’s interpretation).    In music, if we didn’t have the notes in between the beat/pulse the music would be just a straight pulse or beat – no melody, no rhythm.  Movement is very much the same, if there was no ‘in-between’ dance would just be a bunch of steps put together sequentially with no fluidity, no emotion, no connection.  The result of both would be bland, flat, boring, in a word – mechanical.

For those readers who are not dance lovers,  I suggest that something similar happens in sport.  If athletes only execute the skills of a sport, without effort force, or passion, the sport is diminished to the mechanics of the skills alone.  There must be energy,  force, velocity,  and a [healthy] competitive spirit behind the performance of the skills in order for the event to have meaning for the observer, and certainly for the athlete to achieve any success in competition as well.   That energy and spirit is what makes up those ‘in-between’ bits of the sport, makes it exciting to participate in and to observe, and is what make us cheer when an athlete puts all of their effort into a play or event (in addition to team/country pride).

My belief is that art [in all its forms] and sport help us appreciate the ‘in-between’ bits of life.  When we watch a dance performance we tend to appreciate more fully those performances where the dancers have found a way to express the moments in between the steps and/or the motions of the characters.  Somehow they have found a way to internalize the movement and the story to then relay it back to us through their form and their dance.  At its very best it touches us, even those who do not feel that they understand the music or the dance.   In sport, the emotion behind the force and energy is raw, true to life and tangible.  We see the raw emotion given to a race or event and when the athletes take the podium, or watches competitors take the podium.   The [sport] athlete learns to use and manage the ‘in-between’ bits throughout training and in performance, becoming conscious of emotions  felt and learning how to manage or use those emotions in performance situations.   Both similar situations – one translates the ‘in-betweens’ and one manages/uses the ‘in-betweens’.

The ‘in-between’ bits of life [the yummy and the painful alike] which make life interesting, giving us something to obsess over (a little obsession is healthy!), to relish, and in the end what makes us who we are.   Learning to translate, manage and use those moments is what makes life meaningful and leads us towards our purpose in this life.

Author:  Jacqui Davidson  [Please note that this is a re-post from my first blog, Something to Learn.]

 

 

A gift for you: Appreciate and celebrate, without hesitation

RWB: Zhen Guo Chen as The Mouse King & RWB School Student in Nutcracker. photo: David Cooper

[Guest post by Philly D]

Dance is a form of movement that I am passionate about, so I am so honoured to be a part of this blog and contribute in any small way. In my short time with you I want to simply remind you how valuable you are and offer you a few keys to unlocking that value on your own.  Every day as young people you are faced with many challenges, and that’s why I’m so happy a blog like this exists.  It’s a place that can help you face some of those challenges in a supported way.

When you were a little kid, we often got the message, “you are special”.  However, we’re made to feel like we’re only SPECIAL “IF”.  If we have the right body type, and fit the right stereotype for dance.  Outside of dance, just trying to make it through school we’re always made to feel like we’re only special “IF”.  If you wear the right clothes, IF you hang out with the right people, IF your family has so much money, IF you go to the ‘right’ school, IF you score this many points in the game for us, IF you bring home the RIGHT grades.  From all areas of life, the message we seem to get is that we’re special alight, but there is a big IF attached.

It’s not true.

The truth is, that you are special BECAUSE, first and foremost, simply because of who you are.  The sooner you realize that, the sooner you see it in the people you dance with, go to school with.  When you do realize it, you can reduce your stress and anxiety and DANCE from a more passionate place.

Easy to say, harder to do.

So let me offer you three KEYS to Unlocking The Value you hold within side yourself.

Appreciation

  • It always begins with a little appreciation. When you can actually just stop, see the value in the things that you DO have. It’s to easy to get drifted away in what you don’t have and what you want.  Unlocking your value begins with a little appreciation.

Celebration

  • This is can be broken down like this, celebrating WHO YOU ARE leads to who you can become.  The problem is that hiding all the parts we don’t like about ourselves is to easy.  We can hide behind our screen names and websites, we can hide behind our clothing, our books, and we can hide behind our circumstance in life.  When you hide who you are, you forget about who you can be.  By this I mean you limit your growth.  Celebrating who you are awakens new growth every day!

No Hesitation

  • You can appreciate, and celebrate, but when it comes time for action, doing what’s right, you can not hesitate.  This key to unlocking your value is all about ACTION.  But don’t overwhelm yourself thinking it always has to be some large action.  Real growth and change happens in the day in day out small action steps.  Don’t hesitate to be a part of your life and see that you are special because of who you are…NOT IF.

Guest contributor Philly D is a passionate human being. He loves to share Mindfulness, Hip Hop and Yoga together in one unified force of uplifting fun. Phil tours his [dharma] Hip Hop Yoga program around the globe. At home, he is a business owner (Moksha Yoga Winnipeg and Minneapolis)  and, more than this, he is a husband and father!

 

Photo courtesy of Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet.

Book Review: Alphabet Kids

Robbie Woliver’s (2009) Alphabet Kids:  From ADD to Zellweger Syndrome, A Guide to Developmental, Neurobiological and Psychological Disorders for Parents and Professionals   is a practical guide to the many disorders and syndromes diagnosed in children today.  Alphabet Kids walks us through multiple  syndromes and disorders (from A t0 Z), providing  us with situational examples and lists of common signs and symptoms.  Offering several  perspectives of supporting  research,  each disorder/syndrome is its own chapter beginning with terms used in the chapter, symptoms, causes, general diagnosis and treatment, and finally general prognosis.   References are included at the end of each chapter, providing the reader with a starting point for personal research.

With one in six children often being diagnosed with multiple, interconnected neurobiological, developmental, and genetic illnesses, dance teachers are wise to seek out knowledge regarding these syndromes and disorders.   This resource provides practical and useful information with which to facilitate communication between teacher and parent, encouraging a deeper understanding of behavior, to foster best teaching practices and cues.   As dance teachers our role is to understand any diagnosed conditions/syndromes of our students and to work with parents to find best ways to ensure success for the student.  Having a text such as Alphabet Kids in your library provides detailed information, written for the non-medical community (the layperson), and a place to begin your education with these syndromes and conditions.

 Author:  Jacqui Davidson

 

 

 

A ghoulish ballet for a ghoulish kind of day…

Happy Hallowe’en AD4L readers.   Below is an excerpt from the film version of Mark Godden’s Dracula:  Pages from a Virgin’s Diary, filmed and directed by Guy Maddin.   The dancers are from Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet, this excerpt features the recently retired Tara Birtwhistle as Lucy, and Johnny Cheng as Dracula himself.  Ballet and ghoulishness — perfect!

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